College Republicans Decline War Debate

To the Editor: On April 23, 2003, Students Against War (SAW) and the English Department have made arrangements for scholar and activist Rania Masri to come and speak on the humanistic and environmental effects of war and occupation in Iraq. Masri was born in Beirut, Lebanon and moved to the U.S. in 1986. She is a human rights advocate and environmental scientist with a doctorate from North Carolina State University. But although fully accredited, Masri was not the only person invited to speak about Iraq. In an effort to raise awareness and to provide antithetical perspectives, SAW extended an invitation to the College Republicans for a public debate where one scholar and one student from each opposing team would go head to head. Rebecca Ebel, a SAW representative, extended this offer to Sanjeev P. Yadav, President of the College Republicans. “We would like to invite Rania Masri and a student representative to debate the war with a person proposed by the College Republicans and your chosen student representative,” Ebel said. Yadav rejected the proposal. Then, in an equivocal effort to meet the professional credentials of Masri, Cynthia Little asked UVM Professor Robert Kaufman if he cared to match Masri in debate. The response given was this: “I decline your invitation.” Freshman SAW member Ian Campbell said he feels as though debate is “an inherent part of democracy. In order for a democratic society to function, participants need to be edified to opposing views outside the confines of a biased media. Without debate, people are not given the proper tools to form their own decisions.” Many people who are “on the fence” about The United States’ imperial role in the Middle East have expressed their desire to hear opposing opinions and facts debated. Robert Fulton, a College Republican, agrees that debate is an essential tool for democracy; however, he concurs with Yadav on the principle that “at this point, it is inappropriate to debate the merits of a war already waged.” When asked how the College Republicans would respond to a debate under revised terms, Fulton commented that the decision was not up to him alone. However, he said, in a past debate between the College Republicans and the College Democrats, things did not “go so well.” Therefore, there is reluctance to debate on the part of the College Republicans. SAW’s steering committee has decided to take the College Republican’s declination in stride, saying it is disappointed at the lack of an opposing forum. However, says the committee, “Rania Masri will still come to provide an informational session, and any representative of Right-Wing beliefs who would like to debate is invited to contact SAW.”Joanna YagermanClass of 2006